Re: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom

Date: Fri Nov 02 2001 - 18:22:29 EST

In a message dated 11/2/01 7:18:37 AM, writes:

<< Hi all,

This whole discussion is one we have recycled over and over. I am struck by

a theme, or perhaps a tone, that seems to recur. Whenever people talk about

their experiences of "sort of doing democracy" in public or private schools,

we fall all over ourselves to come down on them. We go to great pains to

tell them about the evil they are foisting upon their unsuspecting students.

(Hyperbole, for sure, but I think I am accurately noting the gist of what

goes on here.) I wonder why this is so.

Back in teh early days of The Highland School (early 1980's), we used to

have this discussion a lot. Is The Harmony School in Indiana sufficiently

democratic to be considered a friend or are they the devil incarnate because

they talk freedom but don't practice it to the level we believe necessary?

Why did kids in Chris Mercogliano's class at The Free School in Albany

(mentioned in a SKOLE article he wrote) have a math class they had to rebel

against rather than being free to choose their own activities? Did this mean

that The Albany Free School is a sham...a mere pretender to be cast away and

scorned by us true believers?

I have come to believe that this level of heat in this discussion is a

problem for us as a community of people working for democracy in education.

Simply put, I think it is counter-productive, in that we drive off more

people than we attract. And in this business we need all teh friends we can


Scott David, Mimsy, Dawn, and Joe ...don't reach for your keyboard yet! I am

NOT suggesting that we water down our philosohies to attract more people. I

am not suggesting that we tell half truths to prospective parents to lure

thm into the fold. I am not suggesting that we bestow the "SVS" brand or the

democratic school label on any school or classroom that decides to claim it.

I am not suggestign that we stop vigorously discussing and debating our

philosophical and pragmatic practices.

What I AM suggesting is that we tone down the rhetoric that states or

implies that people do harm to kids when they do their best to apply

whatever they can of democratic methodology to their classrooms in

non-democratic schools. Certainly we all may wish that they would abandon

those efforts and join us in our democratic schools. The question then is,

"What is the best way to get them to do so?" My experience tells me that

taking an appreciative look at our own experiences and sharing them with

others is the best way. Telling them that they are going to Educational Hell

for not quitting their jobs in order to start a democratic school is not.

Thanks for listening. You may now fire away!

~Alan Klein >>


I have felt this was a problem, and have heard that feedback from others. At
AERO we encourage any approach which is essentially learner-centered, and we
want parents and students to know they have choices. No one approach works
for everyone. Personally I believe in the idea of a democratic approach with
non-compulsory classes. That is how my school ran, and it is what I try to
demonstrate when I travel and speak. But I would never say it is the only
true approach, and I'm afraid that the harsh reactions honest searchers have
sometimes received is not healthy for this movement. I think SVS is a
wonderful school, and is probably one of the best general approaches, and I
am happy it is being used as a model for others around the country. This is
why the particular problem you mentioned distresses me.

Jerry Mintz


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